Real Problems with Clark County’s Senior Employee

Mark McCauley, Clark County Administrator
Mark McCauley - Interim County Manager

The new Clark County Charter puts a large barrier between the elected councilors and the unelected County administrator and all other staff. Specifically, the council only has the authority to hire and fire the top position, the County administrator. And then apparently only the County council chairman can speak to the County administrator in an official capacity. The nature of this narrow control over the county employees will require very careful management by the councilors to avoid giving up any more control.

The proper vetting and hiring process: This is not rocket science. Hired positions of authority and consequence demand normal best-practice hiring processes. This means an objective, criteria-based evaluation of a group of candidates from a national search. Typical criteria are (1) relevant experience, (2) leadership skill, (3) organizational skill, and (4) temperament.

Since we at advocate for small, responsible, and uncorrupted government, our criteria list would also include seeking a county administrator that has private sector executive experience, change management skills, and a demonstrated track record of doing the right thing for customers (in this case county citizens), compared to typical professional bureaucrats who nearly always come from a culture of growing government and all the political games played to protect the power of the bureaucrats and special interest friends.

Contracts: It seems that county, city, and school boards often give senior bureaucrats contracts typically with terms that make it difficult to remove the individual, or requiring large amounts of tax payer dollars to get rid of them. This seems to be the culture in such organizations, and somehow the county, city, and school boards go along. If you were hiring for your own business and some candidate executive demanded all this control at your expense, you’d chase him out of the building. But it’s standard practice with senior bureaucrats to seek such illegitimate control and protection. With the specific and limited control of the Clark County Council over the future county administrator, any contract terms limiting the council’s options to effectively control this administrator would be bad.

The current status: We at are hearing that the majority of the council is planning, or at least contemplating, foregoing a search and giving the current administrator, Mark McCauley, a multi-year contract, probably with terms that confound the council’s (and citizen’s) ability to remove him if there are problems. This is either sheer incompetence, pre-arranged collusion with the current administrator, or both. We’re also hearing multiple reports about issues with McCauley in his role as temporary county administrator. Specifically:

  • Poor leadership: He’s a poor to marginal leader with a tendency to fly off the handle, yell and intimidate county employees. He’s also reportedly quite inconsistent with how he treats people and is thin-skinned. Finally his decisions and instructions to staff are subject to a high level of change which is disruptive and suggests an excess of political influences to decisions.
  • Inappropriate collusion: Before the new councilors were even official, McCauley was apparently colluding with them behind the scenes on plans to deconstruct the work of the conservative councilors, and immediately attempted a process to raise his pay and that of his top department heads (read: buying loyalty).
  • Only government experience: McCauley came from the military to this job. Lack of private-industry experience is a big problem if the councilors want an administrator to help with further deconstructing the big-government culture in our county government. McCauly is immediately taking actions to reset the illegitimate power of the county government and all the citizen abuse that comes from this power and arrogance.
  • Conflict of Interest: McCauley’s wife is a large campaign donor to one of the new councilors Julie Olson. Bureaucrats and immediate family should not appear to be influencing their managers (the councilors) in this way. Olson appears to be responding, as she’s the one reported to be suggesting the multi-year contract.
  • Mixed performance as Clark County facilities manager: We are not familiar with all his work, but have been briefed by multiple parties on the mess McCauley made of the proposed Biomass plant. This resulted in wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars in planning costs, much of which could have been avoided.

There were a number of other reports of major issues with ethics and poor treatment of citizens, but these are still being investigated.

In conclusion, we have a problem here. It appears a majority of the county councilors (Boldt, Stewart, and Olson) are going to just go along and leave in place what appears to be a real poison in our county. If McCauley was VP of Operations at a similar-sized, merit-based company, he would have been fired based on all the deficiencies listed. The citizens are watching to see if the councilors at least conduct a reasonably objective search. One would think they would for their own sake, based on the limited control options they have with the new Charter. This is supposed to be figured out by April. We all will see.